2013 Aragon World Superbike Sunday Roundup: Reliability In Question

The World Superbike racing calendar started its European leg after a seven week absence from the calendar. The weekend would demonstrate that even factory-supported bikes are complicated enough to fail when pushed to their limits. What we as members of the public never see when riding our similar motorcycles to work is how fickle and fragile they are at the very limit of performance.

Jonathan Rea fell victim to a faulty brake adjuster, while three motorbikes were pulled off the grid at the start of races. Eugene Laverty suffered from an electronic issue while Sam Lowes had a gearbox pack in. There were numerous other surprising failures during all three races, including Tom Sykes and Davide Giugliano.

The attrition at Aragon played into the hands of Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli, who ended the weekend at the top of the World Championship table. At no point in qualifying did it look like Guintoli would remain at the top, especially with Tom Sykes and his teammate Eugene Laverty doing so well. On a track he hates, the Frenchman was able to get two second places, outscoring everyone bar Chaz Davies. Guintoli also used the press attention to announce his forthcoming fourth child.

Chaz Davies is second in the championship after getting a double win, showing remarkable consistency in both races, once he got to the lead. Even though he got the lead due to the two men qualifying in front of him making errors or suffering from mechanical issues, looking at his form, it was entirely possible that he could have won one or both races even if Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty had not suffered. Davies was World Supersport champion in 2011 and took a race win last year on an under-specced Aprilia. With a factory BMW, he has already outshone the brilliant and experienced Marco Melandri on the same bike. To look on Chaz Davies as a title contender is now no longer the realm of the hopeful or insane.

Eugene Laverty left the first race with an electronics issue and the second with a crash. After qualifying so well, and showing great form during the free practice sessions, he was expecting to remain at the top of the championship, even without wins. Tom Sykes also expected to do better and was bitterly disappointed even with his third place in race two.

Leon Camier burst his knee qualifying and left the racing duties to his rookie teammate Jules Cluzel. The Frenchman managing a sixth and seventh place while Camier rests up to recover in time for Assen would probably be a relief to their team. His bike's inability to get into neutral at the start of race two may have caused the restart, but of all the mechanical issues this weekend, it was nowhere near the worst.

Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam were at the mercy of their Hondas, bikes that are just past their sell by dates. Testing revealed Rea was capable of running at a decent pace, in spite of losing down the back straight. The improvements promised by Aragon showed up in Rea's 4th place in race one, but the brake lever failure in race two punished him in different ways. Haslam's brace of ninth places were ascribed to brake issues, but they showed that this bike was not suited to challenge at the front on this track.

A bike even less suited to this track was the Ducati 1199R Panigale. A brilliant motorcycle that looks gorgeous, but just didn't have the legs for Aragon. It's hard to say what track would suite the bike, but if it does badly at Assen, Ducati will have a real quandary on their hands. Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini may well still be suffering from their respective accidents at Philip Island, but even if that were the case, the bike wouldn't look as off-axis around corners as it did today. Carlos Checa did claim that he was stung by a bee in race one, which sounds unpredictable enough to be true this weekend.

Michel Fabrizio was very much under the radar all weekend, but he still managed to remain in a respectable position in the championship, while Davide Giugliano, who on an identical bike ran out of fuel in race one and bagged fourth in race two, left much further back.

In World Supersport, similar woes struck front runners Kenan Sofuoglu and Sam Lowes, leaving the title lead open to Fabien Foret and Michael Van Der Mark. While Lowes and Sofuoglu are still favourites for the title, both Van Der Mark and Foret have to be taken seriously, surprising given one's youth and the other's advancing years.

That's motorbike racing; unpredictable and exciting. The next race is in Assen, a traditional old Dutch track that suits riders who enjoy riding. Hopefully, the teams will have more reliable bikes by then. 

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It's a track that he clearly dislikes, which partially explains why he never appeared to be a favorite for the weekend.
"Aragon is perhaps my most dreaded track, so two second places are a really great result."

Thanks for the roundup, it was unreal to see so many mechanical or electrical failures this weekend.

That engines and gearboxes fail when one is trying to stretch the design parameters is not so surprising... especially when Honda and Kawasaki are attempting to match horsepower with the BMW, which is both more over-square and equipped with a more modern valve train.

Failures of brakes smells more poor preparation. Understandable perhaps given the pressures, but not the sort of thing that should happen in a top level team. Then again, we saw last year in MotoGP that even taking a tyre warmer off can go wrong...

For the Ducati, where are they in the silly sliding penalty system? Are they still carrying extra weight and inlet restrictors, or was that reset with the advent of the 1199?

They are not carrying extra weight on the 1199R, but I don't know about the 1098R. 

I just finished watching race 2. I normally watch MotoGP, and not SBK, but now I'm getting into the latter too.

So according to the WSBK regulations, the manufacturers are not allowed to change the rear suspension fork (or swing arm) from the homologated production version of the bike.

However, the Aprilia Factory looks more like the ART from motogp than an RSV4, and the BMW has an upside down swingarm like the Yamaha M1 and RC213V, unlike the S1000rr/HP4.

What's up with that? How do they get away with that?

From "2013 Road Racing FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships & FIM Superstock Cup Regulations"
(http://www.fim-live.com/fileadmin/alfresco/6510004_eng.pdf) Rear fork (Swing-arm)
The rear fork may be altered or replaced from those fitted to the homologated
motorcycle. However the type single or double sided must remain as
homologated. The use of carbon fibre or Kevlar® materials is not allowed if not
homologated on the original motorcycle. A chain guard must be fitted in such
a way to reduce the possibility that any part of the riders’ body must become
trapped between the lower chain run and the rear wheel sprocket.

What ive seen last race in a close-up from the aprilia is that they have extra weldings on the frame! and 1 thing you cannot change in SBK is the frame. So aprilia must not compeet in the series as they, like in the past have cheated in the series.!

If Aprilia were cheating, do you suppose they would publish photos of their workshop welding bracing into the frames? Or that the technical inspectors are so incompetent that they would not notice what you have?

Bracing the frame is allowed.

You seem to be confusing Superbike and Supersport rules. Next you'll notice that they don't use stock forks or brakes...

Kawasaki are cheating too, their headlights arent even real, they're just stickers!

Why don't Ducati have the headlight stickers, when every other bike seems to have them ? Have I missed something ?

Wow...they're dark and low, almost underneath and very subtle..
I need new glasses :O)

Although it is of course very frustrating for the rider in question, I think the fact that the machinery can break down adds to the excitement of watching races. First of all it means that the bikes are tuned and constructed at the limit (not so much in case of electrical failures of course), which is what we want to see.
Secondly, it means that there's tension until the end, even if somebody is way ahead. Something can still go wrong. It is called motorsport for a reason: it is not just about the riders, it's also a race between motorcycles. That's why I love it. I like the mechanical battle as much as the rider's battle.

Also, Aragon showed that it is important that there are enough differences between the bikes: then you will get more overtaking, because at some parts of the track a certain bike is faster, and on another part of the track the other one is faster. The more equal the bikes are, the more monotonous a race usually becomes. Everybody then tends to be equally fast at the same places.

really i thought that it wasn't alowed. and i believe i really see extra welding on the frame when eugene came in the pit. now i am not in to technical english but i have this. Modifications to the frame at the swing-arm pivot area are allowed to give a maximum of +/-5 mm of adjustment vertically and horizontally. Welding and machining is allowed for the purpose of making this modification of the original swing-arm pivot, regardless of the technology used and the dimensions of the component or section of the frame (i.e.: cast, fabricated, etc.).

So it seems that your right

So my mistake........

-Frame may be modified by adding gussets or tubes;
-steering angle may be changed by installing inserts provided the steering axis is not moved more than 6mm;
-swingarm pivot to allow +/-5mm adjustment.

That was my recollection also - that the factories can add additional bracing. I seem to recall something about how the R1 Ben Spies rode was quite different from a stock machine in that respect, but I could be mistaken.

The RSV4-F has the ability to change the steering head pivot angle, frame position and swing arm pivot off the showroom floor. The RSV4-R does not have those adjustments.

Its really time they removed the 50mm inlet restrictors for 1200 V-twins, in light of last years rsults for Ducati and the fact that Aprilia and BMW are putting out around 240 horsepower, with Kawasaki seemingly not far behind.

yes I totally agree, this the last time we will see full blown superbikes before they are dummed down by Dorna.

Take the nobbles off the Ducati and let us see what it can do!!!!!